By Stanley Campbell
I was asked to help deliver aid to the Palestinians living in Gaza. I considered going, but the timeframe was all wrong for me. I declined. One week ago, Israeli military forces attacked peace activists on boats in international waters attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Eleven or more of the travelers are known to have been killed in the extraordinary massacre of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
When I go on peace missions, I usually make sure it’s a peaceful mission. There are too many opportunities to get killed as a traveler, much more as a peace activist carrying humanitarian aid through a military blockade.
Our local peace group, in fact, will be hosting some peace activists taking humanitarian aid through the U.S. blockade to Cuba. The chances are, they will get through and not be attacked by an elite military force. Old guard Cuban ex-pats and anti-communists from the ’60s might yell at them, but I doubt anyone will face death.
No, the peace people who approached Israel knew what might happen to them. The same way Gandhi knew the British would club his band of protesters. Gandhi had to train his people to accept the blows. He also made sure someone from the international media was there to bear witness. What would Gandhi have given for a modern-day cell phone with movie camera?
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s humanitarian packages are much needed by Gaza. The place is a concentration camp, with one exception: the people can get out. If the Palestinians want to leave and never come back, Israel will let them out. Otherwise, you can stay there and live in a hovel.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a good idea, as far as non-violent actions in the Middle East are concerned. Both sides have attacked one another violently, but few know both sides have worked together on many projects. You can Google up lots of examples. But peaceful co-existence doesn’t make good news, and, to be frank, there’s less good news to report.
Palestinians used to have many Gandhi-like leaders, but most were arrested, killed or driven away by the militants on both sides. The situation has become dire. Israel can build more settlements and push more Palestinians out in a slow encirclement of what was Palestine. Soon, no more Palestine. The Palestinians will be the ones to wander the world, looking for a homeland.
This latest non-violent action at least lifts the issue to the world. It’s a good way to make a point: the Palestinians are treated like prisoners in what little land they call their own. It may, it is hoped, bring about a peaceful solution, if not to the Palestinian question, at least to the relief of Gaza. Maybe. We can pray, but we can also ask our government to push for peace. Lord knows we give too much money to Israel for us not to have any influence.
Our job should be to support the peace groups on both sides, trying to make peace. Instead, our government gives tons of weaponry and money to Israel. But there are many people who want peace. That was why the humanitarian aid had international support. There were so many people from around the world on the ship, and there will be more.
By the way, we will host the Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba Saturday, July 10, with a 6 p.m. potluck supper and 7 p.m. program at a place to be announced. You are welcome, and you will not be harmed in any way.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the June 9-15, 2010 issue